Red Velvet’s “Rookie” Music Video & Song Review

Who better to kickstart a relatively slow year opening than SM Entertainment’s’s resident pocket rockets Red Velvet? Most expected that they’d come back with one of their velvet concept tracks but new single “Rookie” is red through and through. A velvet track would have been comforting and suited the cold months but “Rookie” goes past that to be an infectious energy boost to anyway who come in its way. Red Velvet are well past rookies now, and their edge is proving to be the most distinctive of all the newer girl groups.


That being said though “Rookie” is not an easy song to get into. Looking at the laundry list of producer’s names we can see a probable reason for this. The song introduces itself as being by The Colleagues, who are an American production team more used to hip hop and R&B than bubblegum pop. They’ve worked with artists like Lil’ Wayne and Gucci Mane, people who don’t shout Red Velvet. SM regulars Tay Jasper, Sara Forsberg, and more were on head to presumable help the transition though. So many different hands were on this song and I think it is thanks to this not despite it that “Rookie” could come through as a quality track.

The Colleagues’ hip hop has been filtered out in favour of funk to counter the chaos of a Red Velvet song. The drum beat is introduced as the driving force. It perfectly combines both worlds into something clear but potentially erratic. A rolling bassline comes in behind along with horns and guitars eventually which add the more grounding elements. We’re used to synth heavy tracks from Red Velvet so it’s great to hear something with the same energy but not synthetic. The horns especially create this unique vibe thanks to being so fun and spontaneous.

Also on KultScene: 9 Things I Learned While On Tour With GOT7

The large number of producers may help cultivate the turbulent sound of Red Velvet, it would be nothing without their delivery. “Rookie” is their clear vocal highlight. It challenges the girls to swing wildly between their patented talk-singing and regular singing. The song’s structure is built around it. The verses are split into two distinct parts: Irene and Joy open up with cheeky introductions, getting us ready for the onslaught of ‘lookie lookies.’ Irene, Joy, and Yeri were made for this type of vocal play and “Rookie” really lets them shine. In the second part, Seulgi and Wendy start the actual singing and bring the details. They describe the rookie boy they are after and the effect he has on them. In a sense the almost nonsensical chorus is that effect in action. The childish repetition illustrates as Wendy sings “…Even the way I talk turns into ice when I’m front of you.”

The rapid transitions between vocals take less of a potential toll thanks to the song itself taking its time. It takes about a minute to reach the chorus from the beginning of the song. Usually this would be quite long but here it feels organic. Each new part is so filled with imaginative sounds so it never feels like you’re waiting for the chorus.

Music Video

As we’ve come to be accustomed to, with each new Red Velvet release the music video is decidedly psychedelic. “Rookie” expels the tighter, plot-like focus of “Russian Roulette” for something a bit more messy but just as weird. It takes aesthetic cues from Alice in Wonderland uses wardrobes and doors from The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe to transition between different sets. Like the song the girls can go through any door at any time, into a new exciting world. There’s a strange man made of flowers, Joy as a drug dealer, and a pull back to reveal the meta ending. Best of all is the long shot of Seulgi coming through the first door with a confused look, only to immediately find herself back in formation dancing to the chorus.

Also on KultScene: Red Velvet’s Conceptualization & Formidable Fashion

Overall Thoughts

The best thing about Red Velvet is the commitment to their concepts since debut without becoming stale. They have continually produced magnificent tracks with youthful vigour. “Rookie” especially, finds something exciting. It’s many parts are equally diverse and wonderful. To the fans who think it’s too childish, do you even know Red Velvet? This is Red Velvet at their most fervent red. It’s supposed to be wacky and hard to grasp. That’s why we love them.

What do you think of “Rookie”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

A Teenage Fangirl’s Farewell to 2NE1

On the 21st of January, iconic girl group 2NE1 released their final song, “Goodbye”, as a farewell to their fans. This release was comforting yet extremely heartbreaking for Blackjacks (2NE1 fans) in that it provided a closure to an otherwise abrupt disbandment of the group and allowed fans to listen to them sing together (well, ¾ of them) for the last time. Except, why did it have to be the last time? For a group that has been through so much together, experiencing immense success, as well as various member scandals, it just seemed unthinkable that their phenomenal 2015 MAMA performance would be their last. In that memorable performance, the female quartet showcased what they had always been doing best: simply being their beautiful, unique selves in a powerful and confident manner.

Also on Kultscene: The New Evolution Lives On: 2NE1’s disbandment through a Blackjack’s eyes 

It was this quality that first drew me to 2NE1, all the way back in 2011. I had heard of the group previously, but it wasn’t until they released the songs “Lonely” and “Ugly” that I truly became a fan. I had never heard a Korean girl group sing so honestly about such negative emotions (especially since they are pretty much taboo topics in the K-pop industry), but for some reason, I felt emotionally connected to the group even though we were worlds apart. They seemed to understand and share my insecurities and fears, even if they were different than me. They were brave enough to take it and put it into their music, loudly proclaiming it all over the world. To a teenage girl who always felt lonely but kept trying to maintain her facade of a social life, these songs were truly empowering, since it felt like 2NE1 was telling their listeners that it was alright and even natural to feel lonely; it was nothing to be shameful about.

Perhaps the fact that these songs came from a Korean girl group, of all countries, made it even more significant and inspiring. Korea has always been well-known for its emphasis on external beauty, as evidenced by its booming plastic surgery and cosmetics industries. Even young ordinary students apply makeup with finesse everyday when they go to school. The pressure to live up to society’s standards of beauty is thus exceptionally high in Korea, which is why it’s even more important to recognise that we’re all beautiful in our own ways, even if we might be seen as “ugly” to the rest of the world – a message that 2NE1 definitely conveyed through their entire career. From the carefree revealing of their bare faces early on in their careers to the unique styling that constantly set them apart from regular pretty girl groups, 2NE1 showed that they could be confident and beautiful even if they differed from the norm.

Alson on Kultscene: BlackPink vs. 2NE1: The Ultimate Analysis 

2NE1 took this message a step further with their other iconic hit “I Am The Best.” Though it was also released in 2011 they kept performing it year after year, and it eventually became the last song they would ever perform together. This song was representative of their entire career, since they effectively showed the world that they weren’t just the best at what they were doing, but they knew and believed it too. That confidence really struck and empowered me, especially during the times where my self-esteem hit all time lows. I was constantly defeated by the problems life threw at me, but even more so because I kept comparing myself to the more beautiful, more talented people around me. I was never satisfied with myself and I ended up reaching a stage where I simply became another person whenever I stepped out of the comfort of my home. I was quieter, more introverted, never able to be myself because I was just too afraid and concerned with how the people around me would criticise or judge me. While I wouldn’t go so far to say that 2NE1 was the main reason why I ended up getting out of that slump, they certainly propelled me in the right direction (“I Am The Best” was literally my daily anthem for a period of time) and it’s still my go-to song whenever I feel like giving myself a pep talk.

I could go on forever about how 2NE1 has impacted my life in both small and big ways, and there are probably also many other fans out there who have had similar experiences. However, it all boils down to this: 2NE1 will really be missed. There’ll always be a void in this fangirl’s heart that will never again be filled because I’ll always be longing for this irreplaceable girl group to come back with the same inspiring power and force that they’ve shown together all these years. Despite the unhappiness and the unfortunate way the group came to an end, from the bottom of my heart, I’m thankful that I got to stan such an unique and talented group; that I got to mature and grow up along with them; that I got to learn so much from them. Although the members will go their separate ways from now on, 2NE1’s legacy will never be forgotten, even 10, 20 years from now. Or at least, I will never forget them, and I’m sure many Blackjacks out there feel the same way.

Until the faraway day when we meet again, goodbye, 2NE1.

What do you think of 2NE1’s disbandment? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

From ‘Nation’s Producers’ to Actual Producers: The Many Futures of I.O.I’s 11 Members

From humble trainees on Produce 101 to chart-topping idols in their music video for “Very Very Very,” the eleven members of I.O.I saw their lives massively changed in the course of only one year. While the group has given strong performances, memorable variety appearances, and infectious songs, it is no secret that fans of the group are apprehensive about I.O.I’s scheduled January 31st disbandment. A few months ago, we analyzed I.O.I’s unique formation regarding how members are simultaneously part of two labels and, for some of them, two groups, something largely unheard of previously in the world of K-Pop.

But with the new year ahead, infinite possibilities remain for the eleven members of I.O.I, all of whom now have public recognition and newfound popularity to take with them to future activities and musical ventures. And although we have an idea of where many of the members are going post-disbandment, it’s worth discussing how these paths may benefit or hurt them. Let’s look at each member or groups of members, and make some predictions about their largely divided futures.

So what’s next for I.O.I’s 11 members?

Im Nayoung & Zhou Jieqiong (Pinky)

As Pledis Entertainment artists, the futures of these these two I.O.I members are largely intertwined. Alongside I.O.I, Nayoung and Pinky were more quietly part of Pledis Girlz, a pre-debut group headed by their company, alongside eight other trainees, many of whom also competed in Produce 101 early last year. And while groups like Gugudan and DIA were shrouded in controversy for continuing with I.O.I members, Pledis Girlz has only recently become official under the name PRISTIN. The group is yet to debut, and yet to regularly promote on television. As a result, PRISTIN has maintained the respect of the public and I.O.I fans, especially when Nayoung and Pinky partook in I.O.I’s promotions for “Whatta Man (Good Man)” even as other members were pulled out for individual promotions.

The new group has found public exposure from Produce 101 and various pre-debut performances and promotions. As a result, PRISTIN’s growing fanbase both within Korea and around the world line them up to be one of 2017’s more successful girl group debuts, especially since Nayoung and Pinky are the leader of I.O.I and one of its notable visual/vocalists, respectively. Not to mention, some other popular competitors from Produce 101 , including Eunwoo, Yebin, and Siyeon, are in the group alongside them. With a debut slated for soon after I.O.I’s disbandment, Nayoung and Pinky have a collective future that is certain and in sight. Within this framework, it seems that, among I.O.I’s eleven members, Nayoung and Pinky are most likely to succeed within another group following the official split later this month.

Kang Mina & Kim Sejeong

Two of the most talked-about members of I.O.I, Sejeong and Mina have a clear path laid out for them after January 31st. Last summer, their company Jellyfish Entertainment had them debut in the nine-member Gugudan, which coincided with the release of I.O.I’s “Whatta Man.”. And while the group did receive attention due to the Mina and Sejeong, alongside another popular Produce 101 trainee Kim Nayoung, the group failed to captivate the public’s attention due to what was largely seen as an awkward concept backed by lackluster music. As a possible rising girl group in 2017, the group does have potential to succeed, but it is also possible that they fade into irrelevance if the next release isn’t more appealing, especially given that they are one of many new large girl groups with innocent, feminine concepts. Sejeong and Mina will have to work especially hard to bring Gugudan some credibility in the oversaturated girl group market if they want continued musical relevance in a group structure.

That being said, their options aren’t as limited as those of their group members. While she will become a full-time Gugudan member once February begins, Sejeong particularly maintains widespread popularity, as one of I.O.I’s main vocals, the runner-up on Produce 101, and a regular cast member on variety shows. Her debut solo single, “Flower Way,” was also a success, demonstrating that her individual popularity will not be quickly forgotten even if she is part of a girl group that isn’t as successful. Sejeong can and will be a strong force in 2017, but it remains to be seen how Mina or Gugudan as a whole will fare later on this year.

Jung Chaeyeon

Chaeyeon remains in a similar situation as that of Sejeong and Mina. Under MBK Entertainment, she is also part of a struggling girl group. While DIA has made some strides in finding public popularity this year with Chaeyeon and fellow member and Produce 101 competitor Huihyun (Cathy), the group’s current state is not very competitive in relation to the larger girl group market. Unless DIA can move their image away from their controversial CEO and agency, and bring out some title tracks with wide appeal, it’s likely that the group will have but another hard year in 2017.

But like Sejeong, Chaeyeon maintains considerable popularity. One of the most active I.O.I members, she maintained positions in both groups while also acting in a drama, making variety appearances, and doing pictorials throughout 2016. While she may not have an incredibly successful group to come back to, Chaeyeon will likely remain relevant in 2017 through her various activities as a singer and actress.

Yoo Yeonjung

While also already a member of another group, Yeonjung may possibly find herself in a slightly different situation than that of her groupmates Sejeong, Mina, and Chaeyeon. A Starship Entertainment artist, Yeonjung is the thirteenth member of Cosmic Girls (WJSN), which debuted early last year but added Yeonjung during I.O.I’s subunit promotion cycle. WJSN has definitely yet to strike it big, but they arguably show more rising potential than do DIA and Gugudan.

As the group’s main vocal, Yeonjung has brought them forward considerably, but unlike her I.O.I groupmates, she is not the most popular member of WJSN. After seeing a huge surge in popularity last year, member Cheng Xiao currently carries the group in popularity. WJSN will likely move further and further into the public eye as time goes on. While their current track “I Wish” isn’t faring incredibly well on the charts, it’s doing much better than past tracks “Mo Mo Mo” and equally as well as “Secret,” demonstrating that this promotion cycle may be the precursor to a much more successful one in the coming months. For both Yeonjung and her group, there is definitely hope, and with her shining vocals, the chance for solo promotions definitely exist in the near or distant future.

Kim Chungha

Considering that Chungha is under no-name label M&H Entertainment, fans have worried about her future after I.O.I’s disbandment. But as I wrote in KultScene’s Artists to Watch 2017 list published earlier this month, Chungha shows a lot of potential for success. One of the higher ranking trainees on Produce 101, Chungha’s variety of talents made her an instant stand-out both before and during I.O.I’s promotions. And given that her company has announced that she will debut solo in 2017, what’s to say that she can’t continue to stand out in the future? With a good song and concept, Chungha will have no trouble utilizing her incredibly strong dance, remarkably stable vocals, charismatic image, and English-speaking skills in future performances. Chungha is undoubtedly one of the most versatile members to come out of I.O.I, and her trendy and international appeal makes incredibly hopeful about her future. All it will take is a company that really works for her, and I’m praying that M&H is exactly that this year.

Kim Sohye

Sohye’s future is largely undetermined, except for the vague answer of “acting.” Currently under her own management, she plans to spend her time training and debuting as an actress this year post-I.O.I. It is still not clear, however, whether she will remain under her one-woman S&P Entertainment or if she is still related in anyway to her previous agency, Redline Entertainment. And while she constantly receives hate for her untrained musical abilities, Sohye has found herself a cult following during her time under Produce 101 and as a member of I.O.I. Although she isn’t the strongest singer or dancer, it is possible that she is an incredibly talented actress, and while netizens and international viewers were quick to call her useless or untalented, her real charms may have yet to be seen. As a result, I hold out hope for Sohye as well — after all, she may not hit it big on music shows, but she may be instead destined for drama primetime slots sometime soon.

Jeon Somi

Somi’s situation is very curious. Unlike that of her groupmates, we know very little about her future, except that she has now been bumped up from trainee to artist under JYP Entertainment. Currently a huge trend in Korea and closely associated with labelmates TWICE, many predict that JYP will add Somi to TWICE as its 10th member, giving the already explosively successful group another huge asset. And while there is a chance that this happens, I think (and hope) that JYP is smart enough to go in a different direction with Somi.

At only fifteen years old, the I.O.I center doesn’t need to debut in a girl group immediately. She can continue with variety appearances, pictorials, and possibly solo music releases or acting stints before she debuts in JYP’s next girl group, which will probably debut in at least a year or two from now. As one of I.O.I’s most popular members and one of the bigger trends of girl group K-Pop in 2016, Somi holds the power to bring any future JYP girl group to immediate public spotlight. So while I don’t think Jeon Somi will disappear this year, I don’t think we’ll be seeing her “Like OOH AHH” anytime soon.

Kim Doyeon & Choi Yoojung

While there are few details, Doyeon and Yoojung are clearly destined to be members of Fantagio’s next girl group. The girls’ agency, however, has yet to make any major announcements about this girl group — we do not know the group’s name, how many members it will have, when it will debut, etc. But we do know that Doyeon and Yoojung have also been promoted to artists under the label, and their young age (both are only 17 years old) gives them some time before having to debut. It is likely that the group will debut probably earlier than later in 2017, and it’s even more likely that these two will bring a lot of attention to their debut.

Yoojung specifically has found immense popularity as a strong stage and variety personality, while Doyeon is also a trend for her visuals and versatile talents. As a result, there is nothing stopping these girls from being incredibly successful, making their future group’s success a strong possibility as well. Not to mention, the group may possibly have sisters Lee Chaeyeon and Chaeryoung of JYP Entertainment’s survival show SIXTEEN, as the rumor mill says that they have transferred to Fantagio to debut alongside Yoojung and Doyeon. Having four members with previous public exposure, the members of this group have little to worry about right now. We will likely see lots of Doyeon and Yoojung in 2017, working hard to ensure their new group’s success.

While the “Cherry Blossoms” will eventually “Fade” at the end of this month, it’s clear that the members have a lot going for them. Dividing now into what may possibly be six different girl groups (counting already debuted groups along with Pledis Girlz, Fantagio’s upcoming girl group, and JYP’s next girl group a couple years away) and an actress, the eleven members are truly embodying the group’s name “Ideal of Idol.” While the futures of each group vary in likelihood of sustained relevance, it is clear that each individual member of I.O.I doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. As fans, we are definitely downcast about the disbandment of such an amazing girl group, but we can find solace in the fact that our “Dream Girls” will remain active in the industry in coming years. And whether apart or together, I.O.I’s legacy will live on.

Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

KultScene’s 2017 Artists to Watch

Chungha Sam Kim KARD Jung Seung Hwan

New year, new Kpop. As 2017 begins, we are watching closely for artists both new and old to stand out with better music and performances. And especially following the 2016 Kpocalypse, nothing is entirely predictable. Anything can make your fave popular — a funny variety appearance, a trendy CF, or a “Sha Sha Sha.” So we ask: Who will be the trend in 2017? KultScene’s writers Anna and Kushal break it down across Male, Female, and Coed lines to give you our prediction of 2017’s rising stars.

MALE Artists to Watch in 2017: Jung Seung Hwan, Sam Kim (Antenna Music)

Of K-pop Star fame, these two singers made their much anticipated debuts in 2016 and while their styles of music are different, they both have equal potential to make it big in 2017. Beginning with Sam Kim’s pre-release single in March with “Mama Don’t Worry,” he then made an official debut in April with his full-length EP I Am Sam.

Each of his songs are so musically inspired and creative that they bring a new life and freshness into the K-pop industry and “No Sense” illustrates that completely. The fact that he’s only going to be 19 this year just means that he still has a lot more room to grow as a musician in the future. Most recently, he also released an amazing OST (“Who Are You”) for popular airing drama Goblin and has been gaining a lot of recognition for the soulful track.

Jung Seung Hwan on the other hand, only made his debut recently in December with his album Voice. He achieved an “all-kill” on Korean music charts with the release of his album, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise for the singer since he had previously topped charts with the covers he sang during his stint on K-pop Star. His naturally emotional voice makes him the perfect choice to sing sorrowful ballads and OSTs, as proven by the successful sound tracks he has been releasing, even before his official debut. In particular, his OST for Oh Haeyoung Again hit the right notes with the Korean public and has achieved a long-staying popularity even with the many other releases of 2016. (I heard the song playing in shops at least 5 times when I was visiting Korea in December.)

Ballads aren’t new in K-pop, but the way these two artists reinvent the genre in their own ways keeps their music interesting and strengthens their individual identities as musicians. Here’s hoping that they’ll discover their well-deserved success in 2017!

FEMALE Artist to Watch in 2017: Kim Chungha (M&H Entertainment)

Originally one of Produce 101’s underdogs, Kim Chungha quickly rose to fame last year as a member of the trendy, nation-produced I.O.I. Among many younger, cuter members, Chungha’s sexier, more charismatic image immediately stood out to I.O.I fans looking for a member with an edgier side. While she rose to fame as a dancer and choreographer, she is by no means a weak vocalist. Chungha has impressed fans left and right with her dancing skills, from improvising “Partition” during her first Produce 101 audition in January to performing on Mnet’s dance show Hit the Stage months ago. The crowning achievement of her tenure as an I.O.I member, however, is the choreography to the group subunit’s song “Whatta Man (Good Man),” which she herself crafted during the summer.

Without a strong company behind her, Chungha’s rise to relevance was largely unprecedented, but definitely welcomed by fans throughout the K-Pop world. While she has enjoyed success as an I.O.I member, many were worried about her future after the group’s upcoming disbandment at the end of January. It was announced at the end of 2016, however, that Chungha would debut as a solo artist under her label M&H Entertainment in the first half of 2017. The decision to give her a solo debut was probably one of the smartest things her label could do, given that 2017 is already going to be flooded with newly successful girl groups and newly debuted girl groups that have yet to find success. The oversaturated nature of the market makes her solo debut something the Korean public and international fan community will quickly embrace — no new members to learn, no new group name to start stanning. In a world of cutesy and energetic girl groups, Chungha’s charisma will likely stand out, giving her another edge in the intensely competitive market of female K-Pop artists. Chungha is definitely multi talented, and her ability to handle multiple skills and concepts puts her immensely ahead in K-Pop game this year.

COED Artist to Watch in 2017: K.A.R.D (DSP Media)

While they haven’t officially debuted, the four members of K.A.R.D have already made huge waves in the K-Pop universe with their pre-debut track “Oh NaNa,” which was released early last month. Voted by KultScene’s contributors as the 5th Best Song of 2016, the track has yet to chart in Korea, but has remained near the top of worldwide K-Pop charts for almost a month. Their music video has also accumulated over 4 million views, and their YouTube channel has over 180,000 subscribers (keep in mind that they have already overtaken their label DSP Media in subscriptions, which is the channel with every single KARA music video ever…).

With the kind of international attention the group is receiving, it isn’t long before they get similar love in Korea. The inclusion of masculine male rappers and infectious female vocals creates the ultimate mix of boy group and girl group fans alike. Instead of competing for the top spot among boy groups or girl groups, they amalgamate what makes each type of group work in a co-ed unit that stands out. While rising groups like Cosmic Girls and fellow DSP artist APRIL are trying to stand out in the girl group world this year, and new boy groups like VARSITY and Top Secret look for success on the other side, K.A.R.D has relatively no competition. They have entered a niche of K-Pop that hasn’t been touched in years, and with the kind of visuals, talents, and musical quality with which they’ve started, it’s only a matter of time before they become a force to reckon with in the K-Pop world.

Additional content courtesy of Anna Cheang. 

Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

WJSN, April, & MIXX: K-Pop girls trying to take 2017

It’s been well documented in the last few weeks that girls dominated K-pop in 2016. Rookie groups like Twice, Gfriend, and BlackPink found their footing quickly and built on it well. Among the other girl groups there was some great work too. Cosmic Girls (WJSN) had one of the songs of the year in “Secret,” and member Cheng Xiao made a name for herself in a number of variety shows. Long suffering DSP group April continued the fight despite a number of member changes and less than spectacular songs. Compared to those two, though, MIXX are real minnows. Their funky cutesy debut from 2016 “Oh Ma Mind” was wildly underappreciated in a year that needed more great girl group debuts. Each of these groups came back this week in order to try capture that new year spirit.

“I Wish” by Cosmic Girls

I had more anticipation for Cosmic Girls coming into 2017 than any other group. “Secret” grew to be one my most listened to songs of 2016 and portrayed an elegance that few rookies can claim. That’s why “I Wish” has been so disappointing. The verve of “Secret” was immediately palpable and infectious while this is a bit flat.

Produced by Glory Face (Twice’s “Woohoo”) and Long Candy (Ailee’s “Mind Your Own Business”), “I Wish” feels like it has the potential to be something interesting. The combined guitar and synth riff that open it have an appropriate space-like feel. It becomes a quirky new jack swing track by the time the vocals kick in. There’s a sense that the producers were trying to recreate what did with “Secret” but failed to capture the epic scale that he so accurately found. Musically the details are there: the spontaneous use of auto-tune is great as are the ‘90s drum rolls.

Vocally is where “I Wish” falls down though. In particular the failure to use Dawon at what she is best at. Each of the girls are pitched quite obviously to give the song some more feminine qualities and Dawon can easily hit these notes. But she works much better as a counterpoint with a stronger less breathy vocal. In other WJSN songs like “Secret,” and even more so in “Bebe,” Dawon cuts through the tension with power and without ever losing the tone. Without using her for this, the song feels like it goes nowhere.

Also on KultScene: K-Pop & the Collective Body Part 2: Seventeen, Cosmic Girls, & NCT

“April Story” by April

In almost the exact opposite circumstances to Cosmic Girls (they even stole their producer), April entered 2017 on the run of a number of weak singles. The style they were going for was well trodden and nothing (except for a dancing egg) set them apart. “April Story” doesn’t stray too far from that but adds to it and makes it better than before. brings the orchestral dramatics of “Secret” with added Gfriend-style guitar riffs.
It’s clearly a sound that fits with the fairy tale concepts that April continues to favor, and honestly suits the concept far better than most of their previous songs. The song is a story about the seasons personified as people and April’s member sing as a girl from spring in love with a boy from the Land of Ice. She loves him but knows they can’t live together. It’s a simple story (similar to Lovelyz’s “Destiny”) but is brought to life thanks to’s dramatic song production. GFRIEND’s “Rough” is the obvious comparison thanks to the balletic orchestra but those strings also bring to mind WJSN’s “Secret.” Especially the bits in between when the strings flutter for a moment. It builds the tension right back up after the chorus in two seconds. Again, there is nothing original about them but April have grown with this release. The production is a step up and helps the fairytale look a little less childish.

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“Love in a Sudden” by MIXX

MIXX are the group to get behind this week. With their first two singles the fresh girl group have cultivated a unique sound. “Love in a Sudden” is similar to “Oh Ma Mind” yet still fun enough to warrant more listens.

MIXX’s song tells a story about a girl coming to a realisation about her sudden love. Unlike April though, MIXX find fairy tales to be no comparison to “the warmth of your hand” or “the sweet night air.” It’s a decidedly bouncy track. Producer Majinchoee (마진초이) laces the R&B beat with bright synths and there’s a breeziness to the way MIXX deliver it. It’s a chilled out vibe but their excited voices prop the song up. The major R&B sounds come in and out, peaking at the end with a great vocal solo while the rest of the girls are playful and talkative, punching out repeated phrases with glee. It’s similar in its laid back structure to “I Wish,” but “Love in a Sudden” succeeds much more thanks to the idiosyncratic nature of MIXX.

Which of these songs do you prefer? Who do you hope will be successful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Best Korean Albums of 2016

best kpop korean albums 2016 top 16

2016 turned out to be a busy year for may Korean artists. From singles, to music videos, to albums, fans were showered by an influx of new material almost every day in 2016. And while we’ve already addressed the best Korean songs and music videos of the year, now it’s time for albums. Unlike previous years, this time around, KultScene staff picked the albums we liked the most instead of arbitrarily choosing the best K-pop albums. Some were biased, some were genuinely blown away by new findings. But overall, these albums spoke volumes to us in 2016.

Flight Log: Turbulence by GOT7

GOT7’s Flight Log: Turbulence is the second part of what seems to be a potential (and hopeful) series. All hands were on deck, as this was the first album in which all seven members had full involvement and participation in composition and lyric writing. For the first time since their 2014 debut, JYP Entertainment’s very own founder and notorious whisperer, Park Jinyoung, had no part in the album. Since debuting, “Flight Log: Turbulence” is the first album where lines were so evenly distributed, probably because the members had the most say this time around and were able to divide up the parts on their own terms and not through someone else. The entirety of this album was greatly diversified, unique, and even sentimental at times. Moreover, the member’s individual personalities shone right through each song. These guys were big on dancing from the get-go, so it’s no wonder that Flight Log: Turbulence was heavily influenced with climatic tunes. Most of the songs on this album can easily be dance tracks because, why wouldn’t GOT7 be inclined to break out into some sort of electrifying choreography to express themselves? They’re a little less than a month shy of their three year anniversary but they’ve shown an ample amount of growth, both musically and as entertainers, within the last eight months. GOT7 has had quite the hot year and we can’t wait to see them rise even higher in 2017.

— Tam

End Again by Ga-In

No one in K-pop crafts a mini-album quite like Ga-In. With the mini-album End Again she approached death with confidence. The album tells the story of Carrie, remembering the time she had with her lover. “End Again” is built upon predominantly orchestral sounds. The sound of each song fits its mood and place in the album. In the opener “Carrie (The First Day),” Ga-In thinks of her conversations with him; they “become songs and remain.” This moves into her death march and single “Carnival (The Last Day),” which ends on a distinctly ominous few notes. “Forest of Fireflies” is the only real solemn moment on the album. It’s her goodbye, a ballad that relinquished the filler ballad title thanks to its placement and beauty. “Secret” is the best of the lot. A sexy take on what came before with pulsing bass that drives the sensual chorus. The album ends with “End Again,” an instrumental that sounds more like an interlude than an ending. Yet in the context of Ga-In’s work, it is the last flicker of life.


130 Mood : TRBL by DEAN

Riding on the buzz of one of the hottest debuts in 2015, singer/songwriter/producer DEAN finally dropped his album this year and showed us all how R&B is really done. And then he took it further. In one word, his debut album 130 Mood : TRBL is perfection. Right from the pounding knocks on “And You (Outro)” to the funkiness of “21,” the album instantly disconnects you from reality for its duration, taking you on a soothingly sexy trip. While two of the songs (“Pour Up feat. Zico” and “I Love It feat. Dok2”) had already been released, he added them to the album’s track list, which only complemented the themes of passion, excess, and heartbreak. While cohesive, every track on the album stands on its own: “Bonnie & Clyde” is hauntingly addictive, “what2do” with Crush and Jeff Bernat just as sweet vocals rip our hearts out with their melodies, and “D (Half Moon)” only makes us fall for the singer even deeper. There’s emotion in Korean R&B, of course, but no one does it like DEAN. He revolutionized the genre by bringing an experimental and trendy sound to it, not to mention he probably single-handedly put the sexiness in it too. 130 Mood : TRBL has it all: soul, falsettos, ethereal harmonies, and raw emotions. And if his multiple collaborations from artists like Heize, Taeyeon, and Zico aren’t an indication that this kid is a musical genius, I don’t know what is.

— Alexis

Daydream by DAY6

DAY6 made me a fan of theirs when they made their debut last year with The Day, but the release of Daydream made me even more convinced that I was stanning the right band. Their musical talents on full display, this album was made up of songs filled with the contributions of various members of the group, whether in songwriting or lyric writing. In particular, the first song, “First Time” was composed by all five members, and it’s truly one of the highlights of this album. Although they’re technically still a rookie group, they already have a unique identity and colour of their own as musicians. The best part? They’re seriously enjoying what they’re doing, and that’s evident from the passion they pour into each of their tracks. 2017 is set up to be a busy year for DAY6, and I do hope they’ll gain more well-deserved recognition in due time.

— Anna

Also on KultScene: Top Korean Albums of 2015

1 and 1 by SHINee

SHINee’s immense talent is undeniable, and the nostalgia-inducing 1 and 1 is a perfect addition to their eternally-exploratory discography. This album, a repackage of this year’s 1 of 1, turns the auditory experience to retro elements, most noticeably on the new jack swing “1 of 1” and similarly ‘90s-esque “So Amazing.” There’s a very SHINee sense on this album, with each song providing a new sonic attitude, but still extolling the group’s blended vocal skills. Songs like “Tell Me What To Do,” a phenomenal single that’s only low note is a forced rap section, and “Feel Good” seem like natural extensions of 2013’s “Symptoms,” keeping SHINee within the realm of the emotionally charged dancepop music. Individually, each track is a pleasure to listen to, but 1 and 1 as a whole showcases SHINee’s multifaceted approach to music and is one of the best albums out of Korea this year.

— Tamar

Free Somebody by Luna

With triumphant bangers and emotive vocals, Luna‘s solo debut Free Somebody is by far my favorite musical body of work released this year. A six song mini album, Free Somebody allows Luna to shine as both a pop star and ballad artist, alternating slow, evocative songs with EDM-influenced dancepop songs. From the house genre titular track to the introspective “Breathe,” to the climactic “Galaxy,” Luna is swift and confident in creating a diverse and unique musical footprint for herself within the K-pop world. With self-compositions “I Wish” and “My Medicine” shining among dance-oriented gems like “Keep On Doin’,” the album demonstrates Luna’s versatility as a one-woman music machine, full of talent and potential to impact the listener with a variety of genres and musical stylings. In 2016, I deem this album the most likely to both move you to dance and move you to tears.

— Kushal

Infinite Only by INFINITE

A year after their last album came out, INFINITE released their sixth mini-album Infinite Only. The majority of this album was produced by Woollim producers Rpahbet to deliver the signature sound that the group has been expressing for the past few releases. This album is a good mix of fast paced dance tracks to softer rock sounds and ballads that complement the boys’ varying vocal ranges and styles. The title song, “The Eye,” has no rap verses (à la “Back”) and showcases all of the members’ vocals. Some members even participated in writing lyrics and music: Hoya and Dongwoo wrote some of the lyrics for “One Day” and “True Love,” while Hoya wrote some of the music for “One Day.” But if there was one member who seemed to shine on this album, it would have to be L. Compared to previous songs, L’s vocals have greatly improved earning him longer more prominent parts like singing the climax of “One Day” as opposed to Woohyun or Sunggyu (that’s not to say that they were not great, their singing is always superb). Overall, this album was a solid addition to Infinite’s discography that any Inspirit would enjoy.

— Katherine

Wings by BTS

After a long awaited two years, BTS came back with their second full-length album, Wings, and is probably the group’s most eclectic and interesting musical undertaking to date. Headlining the album is the moombahton trap-fused single “Blood Sweat & Tears,” which advances their previous themes of youth during Young Forever to new heights. Here, it depicts the album’s overarching narrative of finally growing up in its lyrics; about how one thinks, chooses, and resists temptations. But not only does the album allow the members to showcase their maturation as artists and as men, it is also gives each of the seven members an opportunity to boast of their individual talents and tastes. From J-Hope’s fun and retro song “Mama” dedicated to – you guessed it – his mother, to V’s neo-soul track “Stigma,” each of the solos suit the personalities of the boys perfectly. A personal favorite is Jungkook’s “Begin,” an emotional synth ode to his fellow members and his rebirth while as a member of BTS. Yet despite all this, Wings is fundamentally a BTS album, and the latter half of the album proves that with classic feel-good songs like “2! 3!” and the fourth iteration of their Cypher series. With such a diverse and personal roster of sounds, Wings caters to both old and new fans. And closing with the optimistic dance interlude “Wings,” the group hints that this is not the last we’ll hear from them yet.


Noir by B.A.P

The busy members of B.A.P released their sophomore full-length studio album, Noir this past November, two years after their first. Alike previous songs, leader Bang Yongguk partook in the composition of all but two tracks on this 13 song album. If Yongguk writes a song, you can almost always bet that that song will more or less have something to do with societal issues. No matter how bright their music may seem to be at times, there’s always an underlying message. “Ribbon in the Sky” (Sewol Ferry incident), and “Kingdom” (monetary corruption) are just two more examples of B.A.P spreading awareness. Noir exhibits a colorful blend of some new, some old, and some we’re still-not-used-to-hearing-from-them concepts. This album was not only the group’s first time experimenting with Jazz (“Le Noir”), but also the first time since debut where the vocalist-line, and rapper-line performed their own songs separately, (“Fermata” and “Confession”). With the members being a bit older now and having gone through more personal experiences, songs like “Walking,” “Chiquita,” “Killer,” and Jongup’s long awaited solo “Now,” have become a bit more relatable since we’re not listening to just empty words. On top of their interest towards love songs, there also seems to be a recurring interest since past releases that displays an eagerness to deliver a more sensual side of them (“I Guess I Need U”). And of course, it wouldn’t be a B.A.P album if there wasn’t the incorporation of yet another heart pounding, dominant track like “Skydive.” The saying “things get better with age” truly translates onto this album. Noir has allowed B.A.P to showcase a different range of diversity in not only their styling, but has also shown their steady musicality growth and the group’s constant experimentation with genres outside of the normal pop and hip-hop scene.

— Tam

New Pop by Aseul

The Korean indie scene had just as good a year if not better than our much beloved K-pop. Top of that bunch is definitely Aseul’s kaleidoscopic New Pop. The album is best listened to as one whole at all times. The single doesn’t really stand out, and that’s what’s best about this. The aptly titled “Dazed” (the guitars in this are especially amazing) is merely one part of the hazy dream that Aseul beckons us into. Her synths and electronics contrast with fuzzy and clean sounds to shift us around, our state of mind unclear but in digital heaven. Highlight “Weird World” uses 8-bit video game samples sparingly to create its atmosphere. Like in most of the songs, Aseul uses a multitude of different influences without letting them overcrowd her album. It’s the most measured and precise piece of electronica this year.

— Joe

Q Is. by NU’EST

An art that is practically dead in K-pop is the release of a cohesive album. However, one group that has been keeping it alive is the ever-underappreciated NU’EST with their first mini album Q Is.. (They later released CANVAS, which is just as stellar, truly). The sonic theme throughout Q Is., from the ballads to the up-tempo tracks, is the smoothness of it all. Contrary to most K-pop releases as of late, NU’EST steers away from the heavy trap, noisy, bombastic jams. Instead, tracks like “Lost & Found” and the single “Overcome” perfectly create a house/R&B hybrid with pop vocals. Not to mention that the members got a hand in the songwriting and production of the album, which only makes Q Is. that more legit. The production is intricate without the pretension of showing off a big EDM sound. As mentioned earlier, NU’EST followed up this mini album with a second one as equally genre defying. While heavily underrated, NU’EST as a group and as individuals showed in 2016 their growth as artists, setting the bar way up for what they’ll come up with next year.

— Alexis

Voice by Jung Seung Hwan

I’m a known ballad fan, and have been ever since I can remember, but there are just too many generic ballad singers around. Jung Seung Hwan, however, is different. I’ve followed him ever since he finished K-pop Star and listened to many of his beautiful OST releases in glee. When his album Voice was released recently, however, I listened to it with extremely high expectations. Thankfully, these expectations were met. Right off the bat, his intro track allowed listeners to tune into the album and really experience the outflow of emotions Jung Seung Hwan takes us through. His title track “The Fool” is also an extremely noteworthy one and did well on the charts. It’s extraordinary how effortlessly yet emotionally Jung Seung Hwan sings. The entire album is produced very well, both showing off his strengths as a balladeer as well as maintaining a cohesiveness through all the tracks.

— Anna

Also on KultScene: Top Korean Albums of 2014

Agust D by Suga of BTS as Agust D

There is no Korean singer who astounded this year as much as BTS’s Suga with his revolutionary mixtape. In the highly image-based world of K-pop, releasing Agust D amidst the group’s biggest year was risky. But rather than ruining his career as a show of weakness, the reflective mixtape resulted in an outpouring of support for Suga for his frank portrayal of his struggles with his career and mental health. As a mixtape, Agust D isn’t as polished as typical K-pop albums, but that’s where the beauty of it lies because it is Suga at his most earnest. The first few tracks, including the title single and “Give It To Me” are full bravado, fitting for someone whose group made history this year, while the second half of Agust D offers more depth and stylistic diversity. The aggressive, desperate flow of “The Last,” which describes the rapper seeking psychiatric help, is the perfect depiction of someone struggling with depression and social anxiety after losing himself in his attempt to reach the top of his chosen industry. The 10-track mixtape’s finale comes in the two final songs, “Interlude; Dream Reality” and the electronic “So Far Away” featuring Suran, both of which are more mellow but an even more unsettling, escapist look into the artist’s mind. K-pop may be filled with dazzling pop distractions, but Agust D is true art.

— Tamar

35 Girls 5 Concepts by Produce 101 Contestants

Not really a collective body of work as much as it is a compilation of singles with different genres and producers in each song, 35 Girls 5 Concepts captured the dreams of Produce 101s 35 remaining contestants in mid-March of this year. Creating five temporary groups of seven members each, each song came from a different producer and tackled a different girl group style. From the largely feminine stylings of “Fingertips” to the “hip-pop” genre “Don’t Matter,” the album seeks to capture the nature of girl groups desired by the K-pop market at the moment. And given the show’s incredible relevance in K-pop this year and the contestants’ probable continued relevance in future years, this album serves as the show’s main musical output and the lasting legacy of those trainees still looking for mainstream success or a company group debut. Perhaps we’ll see them soon, but until then, these five songs and their corresponding performances are the pinnacle of a trainee’s hopes and dreams.

— Kushal

Where’s the Truth by FT ISLAND

After announcing that they were going to start creating the music they wanted to do during their 2015 tour, FT ISLAND has done just that this year. Their sixth Korean studio album, Where’s the Truth was released back in July and was entirely self-produced by the members, showcasing a wide range of musical styles. The album starts off with loud and intense rock songs like “Out of Love” and the title track “Take Me Now,” which mirror the harder vibes of their previous release and then gives way to lighter pop-rock songs like “Mask” and beautiful rock ballads “Becoming You” and “We Are…” The album contains great hooks that could get the crowd cheering along. With this album, FT Island was able to establish hard rock roots, but still maintained their old sound (which is not a bad thing); it makes them a truly versatile group.

— Katherine

The Clan Pt. 1 ‘LOST’ by Monsta X

It seems like the trend of splitting a whole album into mini albums and calling it a “series” is a popular one these days because even Monsta X is doing it. The first concept of 2.5 of their “The Clan” project, LOST, was released in April 2016, featuring their usual mix of melodic ballads, such as their pre-release track “Ex-Girl” featuring Mamamoo’s Wheein, and powerful electric hip-hop songs, like “Focus On Me.” With this comeback, the group hopes to express their feelings of pain and confusion, and whether or not it was a result of deliberate intent, the tracklist arguably reflects that. Indeed, the café-friendly “White Sugar” shifts gears into the fast-tempo “Unfair Love” and back down again to the casual R&B “Because of U.” Albeit, LOST is a rather safe enterprise for the group, it nevertheless makes the cut for Best Album thanks to their dynamic and highly produced title track “All In.” Very rarely can I confidently say that a song is magnum opus material, but with this one the septet reached new peaks and marked their positions as musical savants. If Monsta X continues to ride on the direction of LOST, we are sure to expect great promise in the rest of the one and a half installations for “The Clan.”

— Shelley

What was your favorite Korean album this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 2

best kpop songs 2016 korean top

As mentioned in part 1, 2016 turned out to be a year full of surprises in the world of Korean entertainment. Groups we held dear disbanded or lost key members, but it does not do well to dwell just on the negatives. 2016 was a transformative year that saw K-pop’s generation shift, with second-tier groups rising to the top spots and the explosion of new groups, especially girl groups. This year may not had been the best for older fans and their groups, it was a tall glass of fresh water. K-pop’s all about innovation and reinvention, and that’s just what we got this year.

After 2015 being a nearly perfect year in music releases, 2016, on the surface, might seem like it didn’t live up to expectations. However, this was the year of more variety in the industry and a much deserved and needed shakeup. And after much consideration, the KultScene staff painfully narrowed it down to our favorite 50 songs of the year. Make sure to get all the way to the end to see a special year-end video!

25. “Monster” by EXO

The single off of their Ex’Act album, “Monster.” has the same air of self-seriousness as some of EXO’s most iconic works (“MAMA,” “Wolf,” etc.) while shedding the corny lyrics and audiovisuals. The distorted synths are eerie like the monster inside of them, and Chen’s repetition on the word “creepin’” at the end stresses this, well, creepy factor. But what carries the tune throughout are the up and down contours of the refrain, which are inevitably designed to be an earworm. Even if you have never been a fan of the group, you can at least agree this one has staying power.

— Shelley

24. “Drip Drop” by Taemin

In terms of Taemin’s 2016 singles, “Press Your Number” was an extremely digestible track. However, the lead-up single “Drip Drop” made for a much more interesting audible experience. “Drip Drop,” with it’s massive blend of R&B, pop, dance, and hip-hop, together with the beat shifts and whatever’s happening on the chorus, is a song you either love or hate. However, the juxtaposition of the smooth vocals and verses paired with the up-tempo, futuristic chorus and progressions on the second half of the song, and how it dips again on the pre-chorus is a masterpiece in itself. “Drip Drop” is a rollercoaster, but an exciting one we’d keep riding on and on.

— Alexis

23. “Letting Go” by Day6

The unofficial princes of breakup songs return with their sophomore release Daydream and the title track “Letting Go.” In this pop rock ballad, Day6 does what they do best: deliver a heart-wrenching song about young love lost. The boys create lovely harmonization between the vocals and instruments, with none of them overpowering or outshining the rest. But this release was a bittersweet mix of emotions for fans, with keyboardist Junhyeok leaving the group a month before the release. And though the song may or may not be about him, the music video surely plays homage to their lost member with the empty keyboards throughout the video. Overall, “Letting Go” is the perfect combination of music, lyrics, and visuals to get all the feels happening.

— Katherine

22. “Press Your Number” by Taemin

By the time Taemin’s first full-length album Press It dropped, audiences already knew SHINee’s maknae could hold his own from his previous mini album Ace. Moreover, much buzz resulted from the fact that Bruno Mars and the Stereotypes had produced his lead single “Press Your Number.” And while the artists didn’t get to actually collaborate, the American songwriter/producer gave Taemin a real gift, for it completely complimented his style. “Press Your Number” builds up perfectly, starting with snaps, light twinkles, and Taemin’s sorrowful vocals before exploding at the chorus into a full-fledged dance song. Plus, you don’t even have to understand Korean to feel the yearn behind Taemin’s interpretation. K-pop groups are a dime a dozen. So when a real performer comes out of a K-pop group, survives, and excels, they deserve all the kudos. While we all hold SHINee dear to our hearts, we can’t help and crave more Taemin solo singles for they show him at his absolute best.

— Alexis

21. “All In” by Monsta X

Following tradition, Monsta X’s “All In” retains much of the noisy ambitions and fighter attitude that the seven piece hip-hop group have shown in the past with hits like “Hero” or “Trespass.” The opening, with its yawning horns, revving engines, rhythmic claps, and warped electronic beats, is overwhelming, and the raps about patriotic loyalty and protection in the name of love lyrically manifests the song’s belligerent tones and war motifs. In both themes and music, the song is characteristically Monsta X, so then, what about it causes such a visceral reaction? It could be that this time, the clamor and riot of its heavy beats act as a thin veil for the song’s sublimely melodic undertones. The “go hard” sentiments of the past is only second to the optimistic pre-chorus and ballad-like chorus. Especially integral in these hopeful moments are the subtle percussive rings of increasing pitch, which provides us with a much needed contrast and softening effect. It is here where the song’s contours change when we least expect them to. Indeed, under all the polyphony is a delightful gem, a magnum opus.

— Shelley

20. “Angel” by Berry Good

Berry Good’s most glorious moment of the year is a triumph of personality over production. “Angel’s” cheap sheen is the first obvious thing about it. It’d be very easy to switch it off after 20 seconds thinking it won’t go anywhere. Yet the longer it goes, the more you get out of it. There’s a tenderness that grows to absolute euphoric love. The girls hold nothing back; every ounce of them is on this track. Their climactic vocals burst through any sense of balance. You forget everything else that came before and just want to hear it again and again.

— Joe

19. “Knock” by KNK

Hands down and without a doubt, KNK had one of the most impressive debuts of 2016 with “Knock.” KNK couldn’t have debuted at a better time, considering how boring of a year we were having. With a noticeably catchy chorus on the mid-tempo, rich ballad, it’s no wonder they garnered fans so quickly. 2017 can be a blossoming year for these guys if they continue at the pace they’ve gone at in the last nine months.

— Tam

Also on KultScene: 50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 1

18. “The Rain ” by Ladies’ Code

Musically, Ladies’ Code had a fantastic year. “The Rain” is an incredible continuation of themes established by “Galaxy” in both song and visuals. While it is sad that the Korean public hasn’t taken as much notice of the group’s musical blossoming, we here at KultScene definitely have. Taking the soul, trance-influenced vibes of “Galaxy” and adding a dance element, “The Rain” adds another level to an already complex musicality and demonstrates the members’ collective prowess in both vocal and emotive performance. Bravo, Ladies’ Code. The three talents have come back from one of K-pop’s worst tragedies with some of 2016’s best music.

— Kushal

17. “Tell Me (What is Love) by Yoo Young Jin X D.O

SM Station hasn’t always worked out commercially, but it has done a great job as a platform for sometimes experimental and fresh K-pop. It’s also an avenue for several idols to collaborate with other singers, as in the case of EXO’s D.O and Yoo Young Jin’s remake of EXO’s song. Both singers are extremely skilled and they build on each other’s strengths successfully to create the beautiful soulful track “Temm Me (What is Love).” The song has a pretty complicated rhythm, but they sing so effortlessly, it’s just a work of art.

— Anna

16. “Secret” by Cosmic Girls

After a rocky start, Cosmic Girls fulfilled the promise their otherworldly name suggested. “Secret” combines space age synths and symphonies to great effect, creating something befitting the cosmos. Despite this, it still moves with an insatiable groove. “Secret” is grounded by the rhythm section and soars thanks to its contrasts sounds. Similarly, vocals are put against each other to accentuate the range of WJSN’s voices. This works best in the lead up to the chorus with it moving from Cheng Xiao to Mei Qi to Seola. Quivering strings and fluttering voices make “Secret” one of the greatest songs of the year.

— Joe

15. “Very Nice” by Seventeen

Seventeen had one of the most exciting debuts we’ve seen in awhile last year. And while “Pretty U” was a lovely song, “Very Nice” takes the cake for their best single of 2016. “Very Nice” is like taking a big bite out of a cotton candy ice cream on a summer day. It’s sugary, it’s big, and it’s fantastic. Seventeen single-handedly brought back bubblegum pop for K-pop boy bands in a time when everyone was trying to be edgy and swag-tastic. Seventeen, coming from a smaller company, is one of those groups that started from the bottom and have excelled purely based on their talent (and not on the prestige of their company, cough, cough). With “Very Nice,” Seventeen further cemented their brand and showed us all they’re here to stay.

— Alexis

14. “Pieces of You & Me” by Fromm ft. Giriboy

One word: woah. “Pieces of You & Me” is just one of those songs you question where has it been your whole life and is a great introduction to K-indie for anyone who has been thinking about testing its waters. From the gentle toots of the trumpets to the mellow acoustics of the guitars, the song uses grassroots instrumentals to stay true to the independent genre. The slow tempo and brilliant lyrics (Let’s build a castle of our own / I’ll drink all the sad tears) is reminiscent of a simpler time, and is quite fantastic in the word’s original “existing only in imagination” sense. I feel not only protected in Fromm’s fair vocals, but I believe that such a dreamworld exists. Likewise, I also find reassurance in Giriboy’s contrastingly deep and soothing lullabies, for to simply write them off as mere vocals don’t nearly do justice to his feature. Now if only the duo could collaborate on more music in the future, world peace may actually be an attainable goal.

— Shelley

13. “Free Somebody” by Luna

Keep in mind, everyone: Luna was recruited to SM Entertainment for her dancing, not her singing. And today, she is a main vocal and a lead dancer (a very rare sight in the world of K-pop), and also (occasionally, and thankfully!) a solo act. While Korea may not have exactly given this release two thumbs up, “Free Somebody” is incredibly infectious and addictive. Mixing traditional K-pop hooks with EDM and house, the song is incredibly innovative, perhaps ahead of its time even. Not just anyone could do a song like this — it takes the kind of multi-faceted talent that Luna wields so flawlessly to pull this off. Our conclusion: Luna is a gem, and we hope her solo efforts continue as the years go on.

— Kushal

12. “Russian Roulette” by Red Velvet

Red Velvet seems to have a thing for quirky tunes that repeatedly drill their hooks into your brain, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The underlying synths and catchy melody create a retro sound without feeling dated, while the video, like the song, is colorful and a bit strange in a good way. Who would’ve thought that you can make killing your friends look so cute and playful? The visuals of this song is also quite genius with the robotic acting and facial expression of the girls to match the electronic and repetitive beat of the music, making “Russian Roulette” a fun audio-visual experience.

— Katherine

11. “Why” by Taeyeon

Taeyeon showed in this song what she’s truly capable of. “Why” is energetic and melodious, but not in an annoying way that “I” often was; it’s downright addictive. The way Taeyeon’s voice sounds so natural in the midst of the funky instrumentals of the song and how every part of the song seems to blend so seamlessly is audible glory.

— Anna

Also on KultScene: Top 50 Korean Songs of 2015

10. “Better Day” by 100%

After going from a seven member group to five members, to six, and then back down to a five all within the span of a few years, it’s amazing that a K-pop group could still be standing, let alone releasing music. With the return of the group’s leader from military service and the recent loss of another member, 100% held strong and released their comeback song “Better Day.” The song is about wishing to return to a past relationship and has a dark mature sound with a heavily synthesized backtrack. But this song is really all about highlighting the group’s amazing vocal abilities. The vocals on this track are mind-blowing (yes, they sound like that live as well), and Rockhyun and Hyukjin do an extraordinary job conveying that sense of longing that can be felt within every commanding note. The group does a good job balancing soft vocals with powerful notes all while lacing in solid and steady rap verses, creating a dynamic song that is something that should not be underrated.

— Katherine

9. “The 7th Sense” by NCT U

While the different NCT sub-groups released a few singles and even an album this year, NCT U is the clear ground breaking satellite that actually brought something new to the table. To say “The 7th Sense” is yet another K-pop song would be a tragic disservice, for it’s too great to be reduced to such confines. It’s a chaotic yet smooth trap-infused trance; an acid trip meant to mesmerize the senses with the R&B vocals. With every listen, you find new sounds — whistles, doors opening, yawns, monk-like chants — making it a true intricate piece of sonic art. SHINee is the known SM Entertainment group that handles the “experimental” releases, while the “dark” is reserved for EXO. Will NCT U have the “weird” and “interesting” down? One can only hope that this particular sub-group is a permanent one for it dropped the best SM song in 2016.

— Alexis

8. “Fly” by GOT7

2016 was an exceedingly busy year for the members of GOT7. They released their fifth EP Flight: Departure earlier this year, had their Fly Tour, circling throughout Asia and North America this summer, and released their second full-length studio album Flight Log: Turbulence this fall. It’s clear that they took their “Fly” concept to heart, because the guys definitely took flight this year. Ha-ha, get it? “Fly” showed off the members various skills and even charismatic personalities through their individual lines. Considering that they’re still under the control of their company, the members might not openly admit or even have the time to do this, but they’re all still at the prime stages of dating and wanting to be in love, so as cheesy as these lyrics are, can you really blame them? Why are you afraid of being loved, I’m next to you so why are you scared and afraid? Yeah, why would you be afraid of anything if it’s GOT7?

— Tam

7. “Galaxy” by Ladies’ Code

Ladies’ Code may as well change their name to “Phoenix,” because “Galaxy” brought new life to the career of the girl group after one of the most devastating moments of recent K-pop history. In 2014, two members of Ladies’ Code passed away in a car accident, reviving interest in the b-list group and turning Ladies’ Code into martyrs. “Galaxy” turned the trio into survivors, and into one of the most musically innovative K-pop groups of 2016. Rather than return to their original colorful retro-pop styling, their comeback single brought Ladies’ Code into the realm of ethereal, jazzy R&B. The combination of gentle synths with jazz instrumentals, mellow vocals, and lilting chimes is a pure eargasm that doesn’t limit itself to K-pop banality. “Galaxy” doesn’t soar, and it’s not song to play at a party: it’s soft, and it’s simple, and it’s melancholic. And it’s safe to say, it’s near perfection.

— Tamar


Taeyang’s opening lines to “FXXK IT” definitely set the tone for the rest of the song. It’s a bright, delightful and cheerful song; all of which might’ve been purposely done in order to leave fans with positive feels as the members get ready to enlist in the following years. “FXXK IT” is all around carefree and simplistic, and despite this not being your typical BIGBANG adrenaline pumping tune, it’s smooth enough to make you want to get down, get drunk, and party (maybe one day with BIGBANG). This is a well balanced composition; the entirety of the song blends well with no excessive tunes or over usage of certain lyrics. Although it only took them a year and a half to finalize the MADE album, if that’s what it takes for full gratification and perfection, then we’ll happily take it.

— Tam

5. “Oh NaNa” by K.A.R.D

From the first few seconds of this song, it was clear that K.A.R.D meant business. The quality of this song was both incredibly impressive and very surprising, considering that DSP Media’s groups have been on a downward spiral recently due to a lack of musical or popular impact. But “Oh NaNa” is an entirely different story. With two impressive female vocals and two charismatic male rappers, the song is balanced almost perfectly. Not to mention, the “na na na” hook is incredibly infectious. The fact that this song, released only a little more than ten days ago, has been able to make our top five says something tremendous about this group’s potential. Maybe co-ed groups are the future for K-pop. Only time will tell. For now, we can keep jamming and hoping that K.A.R.D will start a trend of stronger music releases from DSP on the whole.

— Kushal

4. “Save Me” by BTS

BTS has had an amazing year, chock full of quality releases with their Wings LP and the compilation album The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, earning them the success and recognition they deserve. In particular, “Save Me” stands out with its addictive melody and instrumentals, which feel fresh while still being definitely familiar. It’s admirable how BTS’s songs are always instantly recognisable as theirs; their group identity as musicians is undeniably strong, which unfortunately can’t be said for many other groups in the K-pop industry. If they keep up the momentum, this identity, as well as the members’ individual talents and charms, will definitely keep the group at the top for a long while more.

— Anna

3. “The Eye” by INFINITE

While it took INFINITE quite a long while to make a comeback, the wait was definitely worth it for their amazing album INFINITE Only. Its title track didn’t disappoint either, with “The Eye” being one of the group’s musically better releases in recent years. Accompanied with a heartbreaking and haunting music video, the song combined unique instrumentals with the emotive vocals of INFINITE’s members. In particular, rappers Dongwoo and Hoya really stood out for their vocal performances in this rap-less song, while Sungkyu’s quiet opening was pitch perfect. While the content of the song is pretty similar to other recent INFINITE releases, its dramatic melody is pretty arresting and makes the song an easy one to put on repeat. The way “The Eye” intensifies through the verse from member to member, building up to the chorus and several mini-climaxes that allow for cool dance breaks, is sonic perfection.

— Anna

2. “Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS

BTS came back with their widely successful Wings album in the latter quarter of the year, and with it, showed their maturation with the sensual “Blood Sweat & Tears.” At the intersection of the burgeoning Moombahton Trap genre and K-pop, the song about a boy who falls into irresistible temptation uses reggae as its base and finds the perfect blends of EDM and trap to form a wonderful medley of sounds accessible to fans and casual listeners alike. The near whispers of the vocals mesh well with its chill synths too, recreating an epicurean spirit in form and content. But the real highlight of the piece is in its chorus, where the trap influences can be found in rapper J-Hope’s intonation: wonhae manhi, manhi, manhi (I want it more, more more). It’s inexplicably charismatic and familiar. It’s easy to appreciate how the song’s individual parts work in harmony with each other to form a melodious fusion. The title cannot be any more telling of the ingredients that went into its production.

— Shelley

1. “TT” by Twice

Standing tall amongst the wreckage that is 2016 is Twice. The JYP girl group capitalized on a strong debut, turning into human memes, and delivering catchy tunes to become one of the strongest forces in K-pop. Musically, they didn’t really hit their stride until “TT,” though. Black Eyed Pilseung found his feet with them, giving them something quirky but not forceful. Their voices are not strained, but wrapped around the beat as if they are all one. Jihyo’s vocals are much better as a result; her inflection as she sings, “I eat all day and I’m still hungry” is the best part of the whole song. Numerous musical details litter the song that make every new listen rewarding. The synths are in constant flux along with the electro drum beat that becomes more physical as it signals an increase in tempo. “TT” is perfectly suited to be representative of its group. Twice’s joyous oddness was a constant comfort in a year where we all felt like TT. Don’t think twice. Get into Twice.

— Joe

Make sure to watch our video countdown to the best song of 2016!

What was your favorite Korean song this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 1

After experiencing one of the best years of Korean releases in 2015, the expectations were high for 2016. This year, however, we were all bamboozled on every front imaginable, making 2016 a monumental year but not necessarily for the reasons we expected. Big names in K-pop disbanded, Korean R&B arose as hip-hop did in previous years, and a dominance of new girl groups became evident. It also marked the year the generational shift began, with older groups falling to the wayside to make room for newer acts. Even though we didn’t get to see strong comebacks by more established acts, the newer ones started, or continued, with a bang.

As every year, the KultScene staff determined what songs we thought were above the rest. And after fierce competition, we narrowed it down to the 50 best of 2016.

50. “The Closer” by VIXX

VIXX made a name for themselves with dark, weird concepts that they’ve developed throughout a few comebacks after their debut in 2012. However, ever since last year, the sextet has been experimenting with their sound. And after last year’s releases and another one earlier this year where they veered towards SHINee’s funky pop territory, VIXX went back to more somber, fantasy concepts with “The Closer.” This time, however, instead of relying on the pop-heavy vocals, they mixed it up with early 2000’s R&B for a smoother sound. This track showed just how much the group has grown artistry-wise and proved that what they do, they do it well. A group known for two power vocals in K-pop, the highlight goes to Ravi who, thank goodness, has been on a steady non-cringeworthy rap stride as of late. Now that the cutesy boy band trend is coming back, a concept group like VIXX is highly appreciated. Stay weird, kids.

— Alexis

49. “Secret” by Yuri and Seohyun of Girls’ Generation

There has never been a better commercial jingle than “Secret,” Yuri and Seohyun’s collaboration with Pantene. Yes, the shampoo. “Secret” is a full-blown EDM song that veers towards generic, but the execution by the pair is filled with energy and surprises. Seohyun’s well-recognized as a great vocalist, but Yuri comes into her own in “Secret,” and the song never falls flat, despite the song’s chaotic composition. Pounding beats come to near complete-halts before sonic builds to the whispery choruses. The song is a glorious show of the pair’s diversity as singers and leaves us wanting to see what this duo could do together as an actual Girls’ Generation subgroup. Hint, hint, SM Entertainment.

— Tamar

48. “Don’t Believe” by Berry Good

Perennial underachievers Berry Good rounded out the best year of their careers with this superb slice of tropical house. Jettisoning their trademark big vocals, they let producers Nassun and Big Tone weave “Don’t Believe” into something altogether more professional sounding than usual. The girls bring a restrained pain that rises with every part, starting out with some sort of hope but eventually concluding that “all of me is meaningless.” It makes the catharsis of the dance break more down to earth. Instead of the euphoric joy of “Angel,” Berry Good eke out a final goodbye to love through music and their bodies.

— Joe

47. “Why So Lonely” by Wonder Girls

This song breathed life into the Wonder Girls brand, which had been fading even after the group’s return last year with “I Feel You.” A self-composition mixing K-pop’s trademark sultry female vocals with a unique retro reggae sound, “Why So Lonely” gave the group new relevance as the song blasted up the charts and into fans’ ears. In both band and dance form, the song is catchy and relaxing, and proves that an older group can, in fact, survive and thrive in the constantly changing world of K-pop. After “Why So Lonely” received so much success this year, fans are excited that at least some remnants of Second Generation girl groups will remain intact, but with their contracts expiring in January, we can only hope that Wonder Girls will continue to develop their self-composed sound in the future.

— Kushal

46. “I’m Good” by Se7en

Feels like a current K-pop trend is to go with the kind of instrumentals present on the song, but I’ll admit it’s a great trend. The song feels a bit more current and there’s just enough variation artists can spin on this type of instrumental to make it sound different from song to song. Where “I’m Good” excels isn’t on the instrumental however; it’s on Se7en’s emotional and silky vocals. I also like the use of repetition in the song, it fits in with the beat and adds a layer of depth to the lyrics of the song.

— Anna

45. “Flower” by Bada feat. Kanto

To celebrate her 20th anniversary since debuting as a member of first generation girl group S.E.S, Bada released her Flower album, and the title track is one of the most invigorating electropop tracks we’ve seen this year. The composition is subtle, but intense thanks to gentle synths and the pounding beat. Bada’s soft vocals blend with the building electronic rhythm, reminding listeners why she was one of the most popular K-pop singers of the ‘90s, while rapper Kanto aids a snappy rap to the mix.

— Tamar

44. “Sting” by Stellar

Charismatic girl group Stellar continued their great run of singles and staked their claim to be one of K-pop’s greats with “Sting.” Produced by Monotree member GDLO, “Sting” utilizes tropical house to create a breezy inquisitive mood. A multitude of sounds combine to great effect, giving layers to the song that build with each listen. Synth wails, funky guitars, and simple bass grooves highlight Stellar’s incisive manner of questioning. Along with Digipedi’s best video of the year, Stellar confront male ineptitude with brazen confidence. Their sting, both satisfying and necessary, lingers in the skin.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: Top 20 K-Pop Songs of 2014

43. “Hold My Hand” by Lee Hi

Lee Hi’s debut will forever remain as one of K-pop’s best, and because she raised the bar so high for herself already, it was going to be understandably difficult for her to outdo herself. “Hold My Hand” comes close, though. The song is the latter of the two title tracks off of her Seoulite album, and is yet another stellar throwback to Western soul influences. Lee Hi’s husky voice suits the doo-wop vocals and bassline of the track well, not to mention that the harmonization of her backup singers lends it some musical authenticity. The diminution on “again” towards the end of the song resolves the overall ‘60s girl group vibe she was going for effortlessly, at the same time leaving listeners on a soaring high with the progression in the background vocals. “Hold My Hand” is one song we can all listen to again and again.

— Shelley

42.”All Mine” by f(x)

f(x) may not have formally promoted in 2016, but their clapping EDM SM Station song “All Mine” was one of the year’s best party songs. After 2015’s onslaught of EDM, K-pop took a step back from the genre, but f(x) has always been able to take tried and trued genres and put their own spin on them. “All Mine” is bright and uplifting in its electricity, with the foursome’s voices belting (plus Amber’s rap) above the pounding beats. Plus, f(x) released it with a self-made video featuring Krystal scaring Amber and their friendship is absolutely adorable.

— Tamar

41. “Love Paint” by NU’EST

As far as underrated male groups go, NU’EST, by far, takes the top spot. Truth is that since debuting, the group has consistently delivered complexly crafted pop perfection, and “Love Paint” is no different. This song starts out with orchestral elements before turning into a smooth yet futuristic R&B ethereal experience. The juxtaposition between the first part of the song and the chorus is one of the most layered and interesting transitions of the year. It’s a real K-pop tragedy that NU’EST is slept on popularity wise. One can only hope that they survive another year and drop more pop defying jams.

— Alexis

40. “Home” by Ailee

Unlike her usual K-pop sound, Ailee showcased the more sultry side of her with R&B release “Home.” Listeners are probably used to hearing uptempo and lively songs from her, but her best vocal performances are the ones like this. “Home” might not have an impactful punch or intense climaxes throughout the song, but it’s still enjoyable and still allows Ailee to apply her versatile vocals. For someone who’s been called Korea’s Beyonce on multiple occasions and still puts on outstanding performances, she’s still rather underrated. This song had so much potential, especially when you have a powerhouse vocalist like Ailee and the legendary Yoon Mirae on the same track. Unfortunately, the song was not as well promoted this time around as previous songs. It could’ve done better, especially with non K-pop listeners, if there was a little more promotion than what was done. It kind of makes one wonder if this song would be better recepted if there was an English version? Hey Ailee, how about that?

— Tam

39. “Take Me Now” by FT ISLAND

With a definite lack of rock representation on Korean music charts, FTISLAND does their best to fill that gaping void. The band continues to move far far away from their Korean pop rock roots with their latest self-produced album Where The Truth. The title track “Take Me Now” is probably the hardest rock song they have put out to date, at least in Korea. Although it’s not a sound that most fans are used to, it definitely shows the direction the band has been driving towards these past few years. Throughout the song, Hongki’s voice alternates between haunting verses to a blaring chorus that showcases all of his vocal abilities to a T. The rest of the band does a great job keeping up with the intensity of the song through combined soft and hard vocal progressions to make the dynamic song complete. From the looks (and sound) of it, FTISLAND definitely shed their pop idol band label to make the music that they want. So throw your fists in the air and get ready to rock out!

— Katherine

38. “Crying” by Stellar

If you’re going to play it safe after two years of being the most divisive girl group in Korea, then Brave Brothers is your man. With “Crying,” Stellar have shown they can a rock a classic Brave Sound track just like the rest of them. The tempo is high, the synths aggressive, and the vocals diverse. Like all great Brave Brothers tracks, the details are what make the potentially generic songs not so generic. Especially the delay in Hyoeun’s vocal in the second verse and the layers of synths in the chorus. Even when playing it safe, Stellar are still one of the great K-pop girl groups. You can catch me crying at the club listening to this.

— Joe

37. “Rough” by GFRIEND

Rookie girl group GFRIEND is known to release catchy dance tunes and “Rough” is no exception. With the mix of synth and orchestral instruments, the song creates a more sentimental melody while still remaining upbeat and catchy. The lyrics and the vocals are crisp and bright and seem to have greatly improved from their last release giving a more matured feeling, leaving fans excited to see what else the girls can accomplish.

— Katherine

36. “Someone Like U” by Dal Shabet

2016 kicked off strong with Dal Shabet dropping “Someone Like U” early in January after losing a couple members. They made their comeback by going back to their 80’s synth-pop sound by way of a Brave Brother’s jam and delivering pop flawlessness. The dance track is a big fuck you to that ex who you didn’t even like that much in the first place and now is breaking up with you. And what’s more relatable than a spiteful song dedicated to your ex you can dance to? “Hey! Go meet someone stupid like you,” is truly what we all would like to tell our exes. Dal Shabet is one of those girl groups who sadly don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, “Someone Like U” goes down as one of the best songs in their discography ever.

— Alexis

35. “I Am You, You Are Me” by Zico

Zico has already established himself as a rapper of speed and power, but here he brings it back down to a crawl, preferring grooves over hard beats. Everything about Zico’s “I Am You, You Are Me” is hypnotic and infectious. Something about the chimes or the fingersnaps or the ooh’s of the backing track makes me feel like I entered a place that I should not have, and to say the least, it’s indulgent. The song confirms the Block B frontman’s versatility and artistry, and not for nothing his solo career is one of the best there is in K-pop currently.

— Shelley

34. “Me Like Yuh” by Jay Park

It seems like you just can’t go wrong when Jay Park sings over a Cha Cha Malone track. This time, Cha Cha and Jay tried their hand on one of 2016’s biggest trends, the Caribbean inspired, tropical dance song. After establishing himself as a rapper last year, Jay dropped his album Everything You Wanted and is, well, everything we wanted: an R&B album, which is what the performer does best. His clear standout of the year, “Me Like Yuh,” is somewhere between Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” but with Jay’s signature high-pitched, honey R&B vocals that’s all about the groove and how the song feels. Jay may rap about asses and sex all the time, but there’s just something about when he gets a bit romantic and vulnerable that comes across genuinely. Jay and Cha Cha are a match made in heaven that we can only hope lasts for a very long time and results in many bomb releases.

— Alexis

33. “Very Very Very” by I.O.I

This song is the epitome of addictive. Bringing all eleven members of I.O.I back together, this song served not only to diversify I.O.I’s limited discography, but also reassert their dominance as the monster rookies of 2016. The song uses a fast beat, infectious repetition, and an occasional rap to bring out the members’ various charms — whether it’s Yeonjung’s vocals in the prechorus, Doyeon’s killer aegyo, Yoojung’s outgoing stage presence, or Somi’s powerful roundhouse kick, each member gets to shine in ways that prove I.O.I’s unique and lovable group character. While the group may not be around for much longer, “Very Very Very” is clearly unforgettable, whether you liked it or not.

— Kushal

32. “Toy” by Block B”

They may be better known for their fun, hip-hop songs, but Block B really exceeded expectations with “Toy.” The sedate, dreamy track showed a softer side to the boy band through jazzy piano notes and mellow, scattered synth beats. The song’s composition layers different rhythms and melodies with sentimental vocals, to create the overwhelming, lovelorn ambiance of “Toy.” It’s different than what we’ve seen from Block B in the past, but the Zico co-composed song shows maturity to the group’s sound and we hope to see more of this style from the septet in the future.

— Tamar

31. “Galaxy” Bolbbalgan4

From the first note, it’s clear that this isn’t K-pop as most people think of it. In fact, calling it “K-pop” would be a disservice to this sweet song, since K-pop typically describes songs sung by K-pop idols. But Bolbbalgan4 is an indie duo that appeared on Superstar K6 in 2014 and shot to fame with this single after its release in August. The song begins with an otherworldly, high pitch tone that sounds similar to what one would expect if they licked a finger and ran it around the edge of a glass filled with water. Ahn Ji Young’s sweet, breathy vocals are backed up guitarist Woo Ji Yoon, who also provides harmonies and a quirky rap, and ‘60s inspired instrumentals blended with a medley of soft electronica sounds. “Galaxy,” the fun and innocent sound of the indie rock track, ended up making it one of the most popular songs of 2016 in South Korea.

— Tamar

Also on KultScene: Top 50 Korean Songs of 2015

30. “Bermuda Triangle” by Zico x Crush x Dean

“Bermuda Triangle” is a great fusion of captivating sounds and diverse talents. The combination of these three artists is truly a match made in music heaven. The transitions between the sick beat along with Zico’s killer raps, Crush’s (sudden and shocking) badass verse and Dean’s velvet-like vocals were smoother than butter. All three artists consistently show up and always give a stellar performance in their own individual songs, so it was no surprise that “Bermuda Triangle” was done to pure perfection. If you didn’t love this song right away, then you need to get on it. One of Zico’s earlier lines is “What happened in 1992?,” well, basically, the birth of three phenomenal musicians happened, that’s what.

— Tam

29. “Whistle” by Blackpink

While this song may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it gave the K-pop world a much-needed dose of attitude. With the rise of TWICE, GFriend, and I.O.I and the disbandment of acts like 4MINUTE and 2NE1, there’s been a tragic dearth of edgy, badass girl groups. With the exception of BLACKPINK, that is. With addictive melodies and fast-paced rap sections, this song brings back hip-hop dance themes so reminiscent of K-pop a few years ago, while also including some newer, unique musical elements. As the generational shift brings us back to cutesy, feminine girl groups on top, Blackpink and their songs like “Whistle” do the important work of carving greater musical and stylistic diversity into K-pop’s current era.

— Kushal

28. “Overcome” by NU’EST

The saddest part of NU’EST’s history is that people think their heyday was their debut with the phenomenal “Face.” 2016 was, without a doubt, filled with the group’s most avant-garde singles “Love Paint” (no. 41) and “Overcome.” This is electropop at its finest, and NU’EST’s members at their best; their vocals and adlibs are near flawless on this brassy synth track. Layers upon layers of overdubs flit throughout “Overcome,” as if it challenged the listener to pick out the individual elements. After beginning with punctuated beats, the song incorporates scattering synths, brassy percussion, falsetto, digitized piano notes, and much more to overwhelm the senses. Then, “Overcome” ends off on a gentle, sleepy melody in a way that seems to put the whole sonic experience to rest. NU’EST, we’d like to see more of this in 2017.

— Tamar

27. “Navillera” by GFRIEND

Few do synthpop dance songs as well as GFRIEND, and “Navillera” was an ideal follow-up to the more sentimental “Rough” from earlier this year. The bright, rock-tinged “Navillera” wouldn’t seem out of place on an INFINITE album (and the opening drum beat callback to the opener of “Man in Love”), with its retro-tinged electronica sound. The song’s title is a reference to a Korean poem about a butterfly, and the high-pitched synths and underlying electric strings help create a quirky, fluttering sound. There’s a few verses, but the majority of the song is built around a soaring pre-choruses followed by the speedy chorus, which in actuality serves as an intro for the fast-paced dance break. The guitar solo at the end is so atypical for K-pop that it helps “Navillera” further hone in the idea that this song, and the group, is a long-awaited breath of fresh air.

— Tamar

26. “Bonnie & Clyde” by Dean

Where’s the sign up sheet to be Dean’s Bonnie? Because as long as Dean is Clyde, he’ll be winning over hearts. Every song he’s released has been absolute gold, and this one is no exclusion to the rule. “Bonnie & Clyde” leaves you feeling such a natural high, sitting on a cloud not wanting to get down. It’s just so damn easy to be engrossed in that sweet, bewitching voice of his.

— Tam

Also make sure to check out the first half of this list, featuring our picks for the 25 Best Korean Songs of 2016.

What was your favorite Korean song this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

B1A4’s ‘Good Timing’ Album Review

B1A4 always brought something different to K-pop. Of all the boy groups K-pop provides us with, I think this quintet is the one I have personally neglected the most. Their brand of pop tends to lean at a more cheesy ballad angle, which is usually a big turn off for me. B1A4, however, bring a level of innovation to each song that moves them into a space that’s hard to define. To start, think of One Direction through the lens of Seo Taiji’s eyeglasses.

Their leader Jinyoung can probably be thanked for this as his move into producer and composer has not stopped their great run of form. New album Good Timing is probably their best to date. It’s a seriously smooth and diverse long player that retains a sense of playfulness on every track. Best of all Jinyoung and rapper Baro are all over the track list’s credits, a clear reason as to how they perform so well in their niche.

Also on KultScene: Weekly K-pop faves: November 21-27

The album opens with one of K-pop’s patented abstract intros. “Intro” is an interesting little instrumental. A hollow percussive sound taps out a slow beat as sci-fi beeping synths fade in gradually. Those synths are the first sign of B1A4. They’re familiar to fans as a sound they use a lot, especially to contrast with their other signature instrument, the electric guitar. All of the different instruments seem to be reversed. This creates an odd atmosphere, a certain feeling of anxiety that is supplemented well as we move through the album.

Naturally the album then moves into lead single “A Lie,” a not quite ballad about an ending relationship. Like the intro suggested there’s a longing to Jinyoung’s lyrics that have accepted the loss even the pain carries on. Musically “A Lie” is B1A4 at their best. Mixing slight electronics with a band allows a balance of emotions. Pulsing processed drums provide a constant to the verses, giving them freedom to move around whether it’s the member’s vocals or Baro’s raps. The drums take a backseat for the chorus as it provides the emotional brunt of the song, Jinyoung’s falsetto pining as he says he was lying all this time.

“A Lie” epitomizes B1A4’s sound so well that they can move onto different, newer styles in the rest of the album. Tracks three and four provide some lovable pop. “Moment I Fall For You Again” is similar in structure to “A Lie” but takes a more soulful route. Its verses are loungy and its chorus is cheekily inquisitive compared to the passion of “A Lie.” By the time “Good Timing” comes along you’ll probably wish they had switched it up somewhat despite it adding more to the B1A4 brand. This time it’s a bit more ‘80s, the electronic drums are more clearly electronic, and the chorus has a much more prominent hook. I don’t know if I really like it but I do appreciate the fact that they go all out and give it a guitar solo. I mean, it has to be an upside given how few K-pop songs you can play the air guitar to.

“Nightmare” arrives at a great time on the album and probably provides Good Timingwith the impetus it needed to keep it going. “Nightmare” is a hazy reggae track that jettisons the structures and sounds we’ve gotten used to over the first four songs. Interestingly as well, B1A4 uses synths to create the sound coupled with a classic reggae beat. Eventually reverbing guitars and hammond organs bring the highlight in the second half of the verses. As the title informs us, it’s not a sunny reggae track. Not quite on the dub spectrum but there’s an uneasiness to the way it sways.

The album’s opening half is characteristic of the consistency and skill of B1A4. Their unique flavour permeates throughout an album that does not stop giving. “Sparkling” is synth-led urban pop that goes past just sparkling and pops right out. Shimmering synths lead up to the chorus, which then has a guitar take over funk duties as it becomes more chant-like. Baro shines here along with CNU, whose voice has fragility to it that brings out great emotion. “To My Star” provides the smoothest moment yet, with Its synths well supported by keys to make a chilled slow jam before it picks up again.

“Melancholy” does a great job of masquerading B1A4’s anxiety. It’s a contradiction of sounds and words that somehow comes together. Similar to their punchy and weird single from 2013 “What’s Happening,” “Melancholy” has tiny details and big transitions that move the song to place we could never expect. Its effusive synths and dazed vocal delivery constantly clash with the repetition of the word “melancholy.” It’s a mess of tones and ideas that feels true to the melting pot of emotions that exist in this album.

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The energetic high of “Melancholy” gives way to a more subdued conclusion. Ballads “I Will Find You” and “Together” have some nice intricacies although do nothing to stand out here. “Drunk On You” meanwhile is a wavy hip-pop track that shows how best to make a predominantly rap sounding song sound good with a pop angle. But, let’s be honest, put B1A4’s vocalists on any track and it’d be hard to not make at least a little delightful.

B1A4’s plight is that they are too unique. In Korea they may have once been popular but now that heavy hip-hop and EDM sounds dominate boy groups it’s hard to see them finding a lot of success. That being said they may attract a more mature ballad-loving audience looking for something to spice up their usual coffee-shop playlists (no pumpkin spice jokes please). Similar to Beast who were more known at home for their mid-tempo tracks. Even internationally their boy next door image is taken over by newcomers like Astro who appeal to on much easier levels than B1A4.

No matter what though, Good Timing shows the diversity B1A4 can find within their own style. Given the length of a full album we get a number of great ideas and sounds that all mesh well together as Good Timing traces the steep highs and deep lows of any relationship. Songs are clustered together in terms of positive and negative views of the relationship. It’s hard to keep up with where they are in the relationship but by the time “Melancholy” comes along it’s impossible to even know what to think anymore. In the best possible way, the album itself is as much of an enigma as B1A4.

What’s your favorite song from B1A4 and this album? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Sentimental K-Drama OSTs Which Give Us Autumn Feels

Sentimental OSTs

The season marked by the fall of colourful leaves and the creeping of the chill in the air, Autumn is a good time for recollection and reflection of the past year. To celebrate the arrival of this wonderful season, here are five sentimental K-Drama OSTs (soundtracks) from the year so far that will definitely evoke them feels (and possibly get you hooked on some of these dramas).

1. Sunhae Im- “Will Be Back” (Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo)

Currently airing sageuk (historical drama) Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo may have been receiving a lot of criticism at the moment for its awkward directing and editing but there is one thing that the drama nailed perfectly: its OST. To pick one out of the amazing collection available was a near impossible feat but Sunhae Im’s “Will Be Back” is a song that brought me to tears every time I heard it. Maybe it’s because the song was played during two extremely heart-wrenching events in the show, or maybe it’s because Im’s operatic voice blends perfectly with the wonderful instrumentals of the track.Either way, this addition to the OST is by far one of the most moving I’ve ever heard in a K-drama. The song evokes emotion in a way that Moon Lovers sometimes fails to do and is a great asset to the drama (as with the other songs included on the show’s soundtrack).

2. Insooni- “Gift” (Memory)

“Memory” is an underrated gem of 2016, one which never garnered much public attention but satisfied the viewers who stayed with it to the end. Much like the drama Memory, the OSTs were mostly understated and quiet but extremely touching and memorable. “Gift” is a beautiful track from one of Korea’s most celebrated female vocalists, Insooni, and it perfectly translates the deep emotions evident in this well-written drama. The bittersweet and reflective song speaks of the sadness, loss, and regret we are bound to feel as we grow older and experience change. More than that however, the song also describes the peaceful contentment we can feel when we remember the kinship, friendships, and small miracles that made up our past. It’s a song that’s definitely worth listening to this season.

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3. Beige- “I Miss You” (Moonlight Drawn By Clouds)

For the most part, youth sageuk “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds” is lighthearted and adorable, if a little cliche at times. However, the drama also does manage to carry some pretty emotional beats , especially in the moving portrayal of Lee Yeong’s relationship with his deceased mother as well as the unexpectedly sweet romance between a eunuch and a court lady. Beige’s “I Miss You” was stuck in my head as soon as I saw Ra-On’s dance scene and the song did not disappoint. Soft but dripping with emotion, Beige’s voice flowed as one with the gentle string instrumentals backing up the track, creating a sentimental OST for the drama.

4. Roy Kim – “Maybe I” (Oh Haeyoung Again)

Roy Kim’s warm and melodious voice works well with the simple background instrumentals to create this relaxing OST which is at once subtle but also very comforting. It’s worth a listen, especially if you are feeling nostalgic or melancholic due to the weather. The track also suits well with the overall theme and mood of Oh Haeyoung Again, which turned out to be an unexpected hit due to its meaningful storyline and uplifting message.

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5. 2NB – “Fall’s Winds” (Fantastic)

Fantastic is a melodrama through and through what with one of the drama’s main characters having a terminal illness and having only six months left to live. There is thus no shortage of heart-wrenching and tragic scenes in the drama which is why I was quite surprised to chance upon 2NB’s “Fall’s Winds”. The song is cheerful but also has a pensive feel to it, made clear through the beautiful and emotional voices of the two singers. I could really go on listening to their harmonies for days.

What songs are on your own Autumn playlist? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.